Wednesday, April 25, 2007

why computers are a bad investment.

Here's a group of vintage Macintosh Powerbooks.

These were state-of-the-art machines back in 1998. From left to right, they're a Powerbook 3400c, a Powerbook G3 "Wallstreet", and a Powerbook 2400c. I got them off eBay and Macintosh swap lists for $75, $125, and $150, respectively. Each came with accessories, extra disk drives, and (in the case of the 3400c) enough spare parts to build another machine. They're all fully functional and just as useful as the day they left the factory.

In 1998, the aggregate value of those three machines was almost $12,000.

The 3400 in that configuration retailed for $4,500. The G3 "Wallstreet" as pictured went for close to $4,000, and the little 2400 subnotebook would have set you back $3,000. I bought all three for a grand total of $350. That's amazing depreciation, isn't it?

I use those old 'books strictly as word processors, a task to which they're still well suited. In fact, they make better word processors than the new Apple portables, because the keyboards on the old machines are far superior to the ones on the new laptops. You don't need a whole lot of processing power to run Word. Those three "obsolete" rigs are even all hooked up to my home wireless network via Skyline WiFi cards.

I remember drooling over those laptops in the computer store on Storrow Drive in Boston back in 1998, so I guess part of my enjoyment of this little collection is undoubtedly some sense of delayed fulfillment. Still, they're only "obsolete" because there's newer and shinier stuff out there to be had, not because they can't get the job done anymore.

Plus, there's an undeniable retro chic aspect to using a decade-old Powerbook for productive work. Dragging one of those into your local coffee house and firing it up in the sea of state-of-the-art laptops is a little like showing up at Tactical Rifle Skul with an original Colt SP1 with triangular handguards, prong-style flash hider and no forward assist or shell deflector.

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